Feb 21, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
The narrative of the NBA Trade Deadline 2013 is going to be that it was a dud.
Fans seemed to think the Lakers were going to trade Dwight Howard. Or the Celtics were going to blow it up and trade Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The fans expected blockbusters and some of the national media fanned that flame.
What happened? Here are three reasons
1) A lot of the trades being discussed never had any chance of happening. The Lakers were never going to trade Dwight Howard. Some people seemed to think the Lakers should trade Howard — from fans at the bar to breakdowns on SportsCenter. But if you asked the Lakers, or anyone around the Lakers, or any other team’s personnel that called the Lakers, the answer was always it was never going to happen. The Lakers did not waiver. Expectations always were way ahead of reality here.
It was the same with trading Kevin Garnett — he couldn’t have been more clear about not waiving his no trade clause. But nobody seemed to listen. And so it went on and on. Fans wanted to see the Bulls add talent when they would never take on more salary. We expected Josh Smith to get moved but Hawks GM Danny Ferry said all along he would hold on to Smith if no offer he really liked came along. And one didn’t.
We as basketball fans talked up expectations that got out of line with the reality of those trades happening.
2) The big trades we did get ended up happening earlier, not at the deadline. We like to think the NBA trade deadline is about big moves, one team trying to save money and another team trying to rebuild (or build up for a title run).
We had a big trade like that — James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets before the start of the season so the Thunder could keep their finances in line. Rudy Gay was moved out of Memphis weeks ago to Toronto. Those are classic deadline deals, they just didn’t happen at the deadline this year.
If you start going father back you notice this is becoming a trend — Pau Gasol was moved to the Lakers in 2008 three weeks before the trade deadline. Teams aren’t really doing the big deals at the deadline nearly as often, they happen a little bit earlier. There are still big trades, but GMs are now doing them on their own terns and on their own timeframe, without the pressure that a hard deadline can bring.
3) The new luxury tax levels/repeater tax really does scare some teams off. This was the most commonly discussed reason and that’s because there is a lot of truth to it. In the past the Bobcats might have found someone to take on Ben Gordon — yes he’s overpaid but he can score and some team could live with that. But no teams want the tax consequences of that. Same with the much-shopped Brooklyn Nets combo of Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and a pick (the Nets offered that to every team save the Globetrotters).
This trend is not going away. The repeater tax will add $1 per every dollar you are over the tax line when you are over said line four out of five years. So there are going to be a lot of trade deadlines where you see teams do what the Warriors did — make a couple small moves to get under the tax line. The goal of the new tax rules was to stop teams from stockpiling talent, and that may happen. But it has worked on scaring teams for trading expensive contracts.
The real breakthrough will come if they stop giving Humphries $12 million a year in the first place.
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